November 2, 2007

Sophomore Duo Drives Red Attack

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Just when it seemed like one had gained the upper hand, the other would win instead. It was back-and-forth all season — three to one, then three to the other; one to the first, then one to the other — until finally, they both had six Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors.
And even though sophomore Ryan Wittman eventually won the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, classmate Louis Dale probably wasn’t far behind in the voting. The pair formed the third-highest rookie scoring duo in the nation last season, and are now core contributors on a Red side that has been chosen to finish first in the Ivy League in nearly every media poll.
“I think last year we got a lot of leadership from our seniors. … They kind of opened it up for us and told us just to go do what we do and play comfortably, and that’s why we were successful last year,” Wittman said. “We want to do better from a team standpoint. I think, with this group of guys, we all have a lot of experience. A lot of us were young guys who hadn’t played a lot before last year.”
Now, however, the pair is ready to step into bigger roles and lead the team as far as it can go — not just an Ivy championship — aptly handling the mounting pressure they’re receiving as young, talented players to fulfill their own and their team’s expectations.
“We just try to be leaders, vocally and by example: going hard every day in practice, going hard in lifting weights and conditioning, just encouraging our teammates and helping out,” Dale said.
For the time being, the second-year players will be linked with each other because of their dynamic performances that made the Ivy League Rookie of the Year race seem like a two-person event. Wittman set a Cornell single-season record for 3-point field goals (93) and finished with 21 more field goals than any other player in the league. Dale, an All-Ivy honorable mention honoree, finished top-10 in the league in points (13.3), assists (3.7), defensive rebounds (3.7), free-throw percentage (.785), 3-point percentage (.468) and assists-to-turnover ratio (1.11).
“Last year, going into Ivy League play, you really have no idea what to expect — you’ve never played against that type of competition before,” Wittman said. “This year, you know what to expect. … [We have] confidence.”
Confidence earned them rave reviews last season and, apparently, they hope it will carry them and their team this season as well.
“We want to win a game in the tournament too,” Wittman said.
“We want to win a National championship, let’s be honest,” Dale retorted.